TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of leg and foot amputations among diabetes patients aged 40 and older fell by 65 percent between 1996 and 2008, a new U.S. government study shows.
The analysis of data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey found that the rate of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among adults with diagnosed diabetes was 3.9 per 1,000 in 2008, compared with 11.2 per 1,000 in 1996, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Non-traumatic lower-limb amputations are the result of circulatory problems that are common among people with diabetes, as opposed to traumatic amputations caused by injuries.
In 2008, the rate of diabetes-related leg and foot amputations was higher for men than women (6 versus 1.9 per 1,000) and higher for blacks than for whites (4.9 versus 2.9 per 1,000). Adults aged 75 and older had the highest rate (6.2 per 1,000) of all age groups.
The rate of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations in 2008 was about eight times higher among people diagnosed with diabetes compared to those people without diabetes.
The study appears in the current online issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
The researchers said the decrease in diabetes-related leg and foot amputations is likely due to improvements in blood sugar control, foot care and diabetes management, along with declines in cardiovascular disease.
"The significant drop in rates of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among U.S. adults with diagnosed diabetes is certainly encouraging, but more work is needed to reduce the disparities among certain populations," study co-author Nilka Rios Burrows, an epidemiologist with CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, said in a CDC news release.
"We must continue to increase awareness of the devastating health complications of diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations in the United States," Rios Burrows added.
Another expert concurred.
"Hopefully, this is a sign that patients and health care providers are doing a better job of preventing peripheral vascular disease, lower extremity ulcers and infections, and more aggressively treating these issues before they progress to serious infections that lead to need for amputation," said Dr. Robert Lind, medical director of the Diabetes Foot and Ankle Center at NYU Langone's Hospital for Joint Diseases.
"Loss of a limb is one of the most devastating health complications a patient with diabetes can encounter, so it's vital for us to take all measures available to further reduce the need for amputation," Lind explained.
"It is interesting to note that the rate of amputation is still higher in African Americans (and the rate in other ethnic groups is not teased out in this study)," he added. "Clearly, we still need to address the root cause of the disparity in different patient populations."
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes-related foot complications.
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